28.2.15

WHAT'S MISSING FROM THIS PICTURE?

The quasi-nationalization of passenger trains under Amtrak began with a plan that anticipated a bare-bones passenger rail service with some hope of making money.  The Atlantic's City Lab presents eleven maps from the drafting of the legislation in 1970 and early 1971.  What intrigues is that the skimpiest network, limited to only profitable routes, included a Chicago to Miami service, and a somewhat richer network, on net profitable, included both the Chicago to Miami service, and corridor service between Detroit and Cincinnati.

The initial Amtrak network included Florida service, which had to somehow get across Indiana on Penn Central trackage, and relied on the good will of Louisville and Nashville in Dixie.  The resulting delays and reroutes did nothing for ridership, and the Floridian was a casualty of the Carter administration's retrenchment of Amtrak in 1979.  (And if Richard Nixon had signed the Amtrak legislation with the intent of preserving passenger trains for his term and leaving his successor to kill them, as the article suggests, he well might have gotten a chuckle out of Peanut's discomfiture.)  Today, the Amtrak passenger can get from Chicago to Florida by way of Washington, D. C., or catch the last bus of the evening out of Union Station, overnight to Atlanta.

Baltimore and Ohio, however, got to drop the Cincinnatian on April 30, 1971.  There has not been direct rail service between Detroit and Cincinnati since.

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